IRC summer reading a success; volunteers needed for school year

By Gini Davis

The Creswell Chronicle

A focus on mitigating the loss in reading fluency many children experience over the summer paid off in a fun, enjoyable way that encouraged bonding between the generations as the Creslane Intergenerational Reading Collaboration (IRC) Reading Program piloted a Summer Reading in the Park venture in partnership with Food for Lane County, which provides daily weekday lunches for children ages 2-18 each summer.

Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, IRC volunteers arrived in Holt Park as the kids arrived for lunch, spread out blankets and invited the children to eat and read with them.

“We’ve had a great response; it was great to see parents say this was such an awesome thing to be doing,” said co-organizer Kathy Tatom. “It’s definitely been a draw for some families who now come to the park (for summer lunches) that weren’t before.”

Each day that a child listened to at least one whole story, they could choose a free book to keep. By Aug. 23, the program’s final day, Tatom said more than 700 young children’s, older children’s and young adult books had been given away.

“The goal was to build up home libraries and keep kids interested in reading,” Tatom said. “We’re excited to see if we have a positive impact on reading scores by keeping and building on kids’ interest in reading over the summer.”

Umpqua Bank Community Foundation provided seed money to purchase the giveaway books, and Creswell Library Youth Librarian Nick Caum selected engaging, age-appropriate books for volunteers to read to the children, Tatom said. The library also stored all reading materials and blankets.

Some giveaway books were also donated. “Some parents involved in the summer program donated books their kids had outgrown, and some teachers who were changing grades also donated,” Tatom said.

Because of the pilot program’s success, Summer Reading in the Park will likely continue: “We all agree it’s been very rewarding to participate in and feel it’s been very successful, so I believe it will continue to grow from here,” Tatom said.

Creslane IRC is gearing up for its fifth year of providing reading support to all K-3 classrooms at Creslane Elementary, and Tatom said she expects kids who participated in Summer Reading will be especially enthusiastic about working with IRC volunteers during the school year because of the bonds established there.

“I think it will definitely continue to build relationships with the kids, because they see us not only at school but in their neighborhoods and out in the community,” Tatom said.

IRC volunteers work one, two or three days per week in K-3 classrooms, typically two hours per day. They receive training and support, and attend weekly Wednesday team meetings. Substitutes are available to cover for regular volunteers when needed.

Creslane IRC currently has 30 volunteers, but volunteers are still needed for the following slots:

Kindergarten: 8:30-9:30 a.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

First Grade: 9:30-11 a.m., Monday

Second Grade: 10-11:30 a.m., Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

Third Grade: 10:30-11:45 a.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

If interested in becoming an IRC volunteer, contact Laurie Swanson Gribskov at swansongribskov@comcast.net or 541-953-9145.